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  1. #1

    Default Yet another SF to LV question

    Hi,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a 2 week trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas in May. I've read plenty of posts here but there are a couple of details from our own trip I'd appreciate a few pointers for. Hopefully someone can help.

    Everything isn't 100% fixed yet, but here is what we have. Flights, rental car and hotel in SF are already all booked, everything else is open:

    13th - Land at SFO, spend 3 nights in SF
    16th - Leave SF and head down coast/highway 1
    16-17th - 1 night in Monterey, visit aquarium
    17th - Arrive in Cambria/Morro Bay area, spend a few nights here. Either moving along the coast, or staying multiple nights in the same establishment and using it as a base to explore further.
    ~20th - head inland towards Yosemite and spend some time there

    * this is where it's a little uncertain

    26th - Vegas
    27th - Day trip/Fly over Grand Canyon
    28th - Vegas
    29th - Fly out of LAS


    Our main hesitation is how long to stay on the coast/in Yosemite and how to head to Vegas afterwards.
    We'd really like to see mono lake and death valley but, as from what I can gather, the Tioga pass may be closed, I was thinking of pre-planning 2 routes from that point on depending on road conditions.

    What do people suggest as an alternative non-death valley route from Yosemite that would still be interesting?
    I like booking hotels in advance but it won't be possible for this part of the journey so I was also wondering if there were recommended stopover locations on the way to Vegas via both routes that could accommodate us last minute at a reasonable price?

    Any other remarks appreciated also.

    Thanks!
    Colin

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Will it or won't it ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    The Tioga pass does offer uncertainty when travelling at this time of year, but there is just no way of knowing until much closer to the time.

    I would recommend spending at least a couple of nights in Yosemite, it is an amazing place. Hopefully Glacier point Rd will be open as it is well worth the drive and short walk to this spectacular viewpoint. The waterfalls will be flowing and will make a great experience even better. If Tioga is open then a night around Bishop and another in Death valley would be very relaxed, if it isn't you could head South and spend a night in Sequoia NP and head around Lake Isabella and into Death valley.

    Grand canyon is too much for a day trip and most tours out of Vegas go from to the West rim, which is outside of the National park area. I would urge you to drive to the South rim and spend at least 1 night there to visit the views made famous the world over through photography. I think you could do that comfortably with the time you have.

  3. Default

    We did a similar trip in 2009. We drove trough Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes, then to Lone Pine and from there trough Death Valley to Las Vegas. From Las Vegas we made a loop trough Valley of Fire, Zion, Page, Grand Canyon and back to Vegas. The loop we did in 4 days.
    I agree with Southwest Dave, it's a pretty long trip from Vegas tot Grand Canyon and do a tour on one day.
    It's a beautiful trip so I wish you a great vacation!

  4. #4

    Default

    Hi

    Thanks very much for the tips. We'll plan the 2 routes then and check up on the Tioga pass when getting close.

    When I mentioned the 1 day tour, I was referring to a flying one. You drive to Hoover Dam and take off from an airfield close-by to fly over the Grand Canyon. It's obviously not the same as driving there but I thought it would be better than nothing, and didn't get the impression we could fit a proper driving tour comfortably within our dates (I really don't want to feel rushed). I'll see if I can plan things out with a drive included while still leaving time to check out Vegas. I'm not a gambler but there are a few things I'd like to see there.

    Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    Default

    The more obvious choice would be to 'take' a night from the Morro bay area, and perhaps one on route from Yosemite to Vegas and spend 2 nights and a full day at the Grand canyon.

  6. Default

    It will take you about 1/2 day to drive Hwy 1 to Monterey from San Francisco, you will most likely want to stop and site see between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. You might want go down and check out the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz also. It is hard to take in the Aquarium at Monterey in less then about 3 hours. When you will be there, it will be Monday and the Aquarium closes at 5:00pm. You might want to take in the Aquarium the next day at 10:00am.

    You should be able to make it to Cambria by late afternoon or early evening from Monterey, I do believe that Hwy 1 thru Big Sur is the most beautiful drive along the California coastline that you will ever see, and you will want to stop and stretch your legs to get a closer look at the coastline. There are also many interesting Artsy shops along the route you might like to stop at.

    I suggest to stay at the Best Western Cavalier in San Simeon, which is near Cambria. It is a little pricey, but it is the only hotel in the area which have true Ocean View rooms right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My Wife and I have spent numerous Wedding anniversaries there. In the mornings you can watch the Sea Lions play in the waves from your patio. Also I would take in at least one tour at Hearst Castle, it is incredible to see. The restaurants and shops can not be missed in Cambria.
    I would suggest that you skip Morro Bay, only because I think it will save you time heading towards Yosemite from Cambria.

    I believe your best option for Yosemite is to avoid Tioga Pass. Right now we are having a mild winter in California and does look good for the pass to be open at the time you will be here…but it is still early to tell. Some of the ski areas in the Sierras are reporting up to 8 to 12 foot of a snowpack. The forestry Department will be in no hurry to open the pass especially with the State of California not having the funds to plow the road, I think they will let Mother Nature take care of it, and no telling when that will be.

    I would just head to Yosemite Valley thru the Oakhurst Gate and you should be able to enjoy the Park at its finest. The water falls should be flowing full off the Valley’s walls at the time of year you will be there.

    I would then drive back to Hwy 99 and head south to Bakersfield and cut across the Mojave Desert and head north to Death Valley. Then head East either to Pahrump or Beatty in Nevada and Vegas is not that far from there. I agree, Valley of Fire is a must see.

    I have been to Mono Lake several times and if you can’t make it over Tioga, it’s really not worth the time spent getting to it. I am an advent fisherman and if you don’t like to fish, the Bishop Valley and the Nevada side of the Sierras is not worth the time and effort it takes to get there from California for site seeing in my opinion.

    I noticed that you said that you wanted to fly over the Grand Canyon. If you were to drive to it, it is a long drive. I have driven thru Zion to the North Side of the canyon and it is a long haul. The North Side has its beauty but is very limited to how much you can see of the canyon itself. Zion is very beautiful and a must see.

    The south side of the canyon is a whole other story. From Vegas it is a good full days drive. You would have to stay several days at or around the Rim. Depending on if you walk trails by the South Rim Village or drive along the Rim, it is a full day of hiking the rim and another day for driving and site seeing the entire rim.
    I would say 2 to 3 days to take in the South Rim.

    Just my 2 cents worth from my travels to all these areas.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default A couple of points.

    Thanks for the informative post, but a couple of points I would like to make.

    I believe your best option for Yosemite is to avoid Tioga Pass. Right now we are having a mild winter in California and does look good for the pass to be open at the time you will be here…but it is still early to tell. Some of the ski areas in the Sierras are reporting up to 8 to 12 foot of a snowpack. The forestry Department will be in no hurry to open the pass especially with the State of California not having the funds to plow the road, I think they will let Mother Nature take care of it, and no telling when that will be.
    I would keep that option open for sure, it's a spectacular drive ! The NPS work hard every Spring to plow the road and get it open ASAP for travellers. Tioga pass within the park is their responsibility I believe and the road to the East gate is usually open before the NP crews have finished. It's been quite settled in the Sierra's of late, but we know how a late storm can change all that !

    The south side of the canyon is a whole other story. From Vegas it is a good full days drive. You would have to stay several days at or around the Rim.
    Sorry but that's incorrect. From Vegas you can get to the South rim in Approx 5 hours along I 40. A day/ day and a half can be a very rewarding experience at the Canyon, and where it would be possible to spend several day's there, most visitors don't.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,064

    Default

    Since it hasn't been said yet, you really should note that most tours from Vegas that claim to fly over the Grand Canyon do not fly over the national park. They will generally fly over the west rim area that's on Indian Reservation land. It still makes for a nice trip, but its hard to compare that to standing on the rim in the national park.

    I very much agree with Dave, you could pretty easily fit a trip out to the Grand Canyon without too much of a problem. It might take involve taking a day away from the coast or elsewhere on your trip, but it is still very doable without being overly rushed.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Thanks for the informative post, but a couple of points I would like to make. I would keep that option open for sure, it's a spectacular drive ! The NPS work hard every Spring to plow the road and get it open ASAP for travellers. Tioga pass within the park is their responsibility I believe and the road to the East gate is usually open before the NP crews have finished. It's been quite settled in the Sierra's of late, but we know how a late storm can change all that !

    Sorry but that's incorrect. From Vegas you can get to the South rim in Approx 5 hours along I 40. A day/ day and a half can be a very rewarding experience at the Canyon, and where it would be possible to spend several day's there, most visitors don't.
    I stand corrected. The last time I taveled the route the bypass bridge was not completed and the traffic was very heavy going over Hoover Dam. In those days it took longer to get to the canyon. The Bypass bridge was just opened in Oct 2010 and yes you can make the trip in 5 hours now. That is if you don't take in the sites. I tend to disagree with you regarding the Grand Canyon. I found that a day and half is not enough time to take in all that the Canyon has to offer. I expect it would be enough time if you simply looked over the edge.

    Aztarac plans to take a flight from Vegas over the Grand Canyon, so this is a mute point.

    As for Tioga Pass. I have backpacked Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows for 40 years and unless that is what you intend to do up there, I still stand by my statement to avoid Tioga Pass as a drive tour considering Aztarac's limited time.

    Hwy 395 on the Nevada side of the Sierras is beautiful if you have the time to spare. Heading up to Tuolumne Meadows and over the Pass from the valley a week before Memorial Day could take a little bit longer then you realize. As I said with the winter we are having to date, there is a good possibilty that Tioga will be open when Aztarac is here. I only suggested a alternative to that route as he requested.

    Last year the snow level at the same time of year was below 4000 feet.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-22-2011 at 04:19 PM. Reason: removed extra white spaces

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Default

    Even before the bypass was completed, it still wasn't a full day drive to the Grand Canyon. It would take longer - often an hour or more longer - but even there it only made it a 6 hour drive. There's also always been the option of going down to Laughlin and then going across - which had been the truck detour for years.

    Now 6 hours made it far too long to drive there and back in 1 day and have time to see anything, but thousands of people have done the trip over 2 days.

    A drive to the canyon isn't in the current plans, but it is certainly an option with the time the original poster has available for their trip.

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